Friday, August 10, 2007

The Trip - Glacier National Park

I have to start by saying that, as much as I enjoy Yellowstone (here and here), Glacier National Park is my favorite place in the world. It's my favorite not only because it's beautiful, but also for sentimental reasons.

We went there today.

We're staying at an RV Park in Kalispell, not too far from where my Grandma and Grandpa used to live. On the way to the Park, we drove out the highway where they used to live (it's the road to Glacier), and it has changed. A lot.

My mom spotted Aunt Agnes's house (my mom's mother's aunt), about a quarter mile south of my grandparents' house, but I didn't see it until after we turned around to go back there. The house was lost among all the businesses that have spread north of town and taken over that rural stretch of road. And they're not nice-looking businesses, either. Most of them are in steel buildings and they provide services like sheet-metal work, backhoes, manufactured homes, and other unsightly products.

And Grandma and Grandpa's house didn't fare much better. The house and garage need paint, and the pig farm next door is gone now, replaced by more ugly businesses. The old rural look that I remember started up about a mile or two past the pig farm. It was disheartening to see the way my childhood memories had become blighted.

But I took heart again, once we got past that stretch of road. Glacier doesn't change--not that way, anyway.

I took about a million pictures (421, to be exact), and I'll spare you from the vast majority of them and only show a bunch.

But first, to clear up a couple misconceptions. Glacier National Park is not called "Glacier" because of the glaciers that top some of the mountains. It's called "Glacier" because it was carved by the massive glaciers of the last ice age.

Second, most of the rivers and lakes in the Park are spring-fed, not glacial runoff. Bodies of water whose source is a glacier are milky-colored. Bodies of water that begin with a spring are crystal-clear. I've see glacial creeks before, but we didn't see any this time.

Glacier has one main road, called the Going-to-the-Sun Road after the Native American name for that route. It climbs up to Logan Pass, on the Continental Divide, and then drops down the east side to Saint Mary. We usually stay on the west side, and that's what we did today. It's strange how much time it takes to get anywhere when you're stopping all the time to take pictures.

The first main point of interest is Lake McDonald, whose bottom was scooped out by a glacier 2,000 feet thick. Lake McDonald is the introduction to what is to come. The mountains that surround it are the mountains into which we drive.

After the lake, the road follows McDonald Creek upstream. Turnouts give access for viewing the waterfalls.

Water levels are low this year, after a winter with unusually small amounts of snow. Normally this second waterfall would be so full, the lower rocks wouldn't show.

As far as scenery, I don't even know where to begin. As the road climbs, the mountains tower above it. You can see the cut of the road on the upper portion of the two slopes on the left side of the picture.

This was disappointing. The Weeping Wall was hardly shedding a tear.

Normally it looks like this.

Photo credit:

Hiking trails are all over the Park. At Logan Pass, the shortest hike is the 1-1/2 mile trail to the overlook of Hidden Lake, and that's the one I took, while my mom and Scooter waited patiently for me around the Visitor Center.

Although the drive up the mountains shows tree-covered hillsides or rocky cliffs, the hike to Hidden Lake is a picture of what the area would be like if the glaciers hadn't carved it. Wildflowers sprinkled the meadows...

...beneath mountain peaks...

...and small springs trickled their way toward the cliff's edge.

Of course, we saw critters.

Columbian Ground Squirrel:

Hoary Marmot:

Bighorn Sheep:

Mountain Goat:

I never seem to get enough of Glacier. If I lived in Kalispell or one of the towns nearby, my camera and I would buy an annual pass.


janice said...

Your photos are great!

Thank you for taking us with you through your pictures.

Be safe.

Bekah said...

Absolutely beautiful! As make me want to travel!

CG said...

Wow!! Now I see why you like Glacier so much.